How to keep your sanity with "lay" and "lie"
Is it correct to say "lay down that pistol", why can't we with equal justification say "lay down for a nap"?
These two verbs are a particularly common and troublesome problem in English grammar (and not only to Americans!), and one well worth devoting some time to. The key to the entire problem lies in your complete understanding of the difference between transitive, intransitive, and passive verbs.
A verb is passive if its subject receives its action, i.e. the thieves were put in jail
An active verb is transitive if it has an object, i.e. the thief stole a necklace
Here are the two keys that will unlock the secrets of lay and lie:
Lie - intransitive
Lay - transitive
But the trouble really starts with the past tense. The past tense of lay is laid, so far so good. But the past tense of lie is lay!
Before you become too confused to be of any further use to society, let us make a table:
Lie is intransitive, lay is transitive. Lie only has an active voice. Lay may be either active or passive. Once you have mastered these principles, the rest is a matter of forming good habits, so that they become reflexive.
How to remember the rule: the i in lie will remind you of intransitive, the a in lay will remind you of transitive and passive; in both these terms the first vowel is a.
I have noticed that French and Italian speakers often use this word to describe the French/Italian éventuellement/eventualmente. The correct way of conveying this doubt in English is to use possibly or might. Eventually means: at an unspecified later time, in the end.
Il y aura Paul et éventuellement Nicole:
Paul will be there and possibly Nicole
Il finira par le faire He will do it eventually.
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